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Destination Albuquerque, NM, via Amtrak Southwest Chief

Amtrak Southwest Chief from Fullerton, CA, to Albuquerque, NM

Including photos of

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Preserve, Old Town Albuquerque, Unser Racing Museum, Santa Fe Southern Railway, Classical Gas Museum - Embudo, and Taos Pueblo.

Photos and Text by Carl Morrison, Comments Welcomed at

January 17 - 22, 2012

"Where are my Training Pants, Sue?"

"Your WHAT?!"

"You know, the cargo pants I wear when I go on a Train Trip."

That is how this trip from Fullerton, CA, to Albuquerque, NM started.  I like wearing cargo pants on train trips so I can put everything I need in the Diner in those front pockets and not have to dig into my back pockets in those small booths.  There is no room, when four adults are seated in an Amtrak Diner booth, for a camera, purse, or anything other than yourself.  However, perhaps I should call them something other than Training Pants.  At my age, I'll be needing the real thing soon enough.

Prior to packing for the trip, my friend, Preacher Roe, had offered to share his roomette from Fullerton, to Albuquerque where he would attend a conference at the Hyatt Tamaya Resort between Albuquerque and Santa Fe just off Hwy. 550 and I-25.  As you probably know, two folks can travel in a roomette with no additional cost beyond the first person.  And, meals in the Diner are included
in the price of the roomette for both people.

    Scroll down to read the complete report, or click the part of the report you would like to go to in the Table of Contents below:

  1. FUL to ABQ, the perfect "Turn Around Trip"
  2. Hyatt Tamaya Resort, Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico
  3. Santa Fe Southern Railway
  4. Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
  5. Old Town Albuquerque
  6. Unser Racing Museum
  7. Classical Gas Museum
  8. Taos Pueblo

FUL to ABQ, the perfect "Turn Around Trip"

If you are looking for a "Turn Around Trip" from Los Angeles on the Southwest Chief (train travel, overnight on the train, and travel back) Albuquerque is better than Flagstaff.  Train travel from LA to Flagstaff is entirely at night, whereas travel to Albuquerque starts with dinner and sleep, then an early morning breakfast and arrival in Albuquerque a bit before noon.

Because the entire ride through Southern California and most of Arizona is at night, the scenery during the following day on the way to ABQ is all desert.  After breakfast, I went to the Sightseer Lounge Car to watch the landscape.

(Click any photo below to see a double-sized copy;  Click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)

"Country Roads" 

The Route 66-type highway intersects with a red sand side road here just like it does hundreds of times in the western states.  And you don't have to be driving to enjoy it, see it from the train!  In fact, you wouldn't see this scene from Interstate 40.

You might think there is no life out here in the desert snow, but look at all those wild animal tracks.

And there were more and more animal tracks in the snow as we raced by on tracks of our own.

Not all man-made elements have improved the landscape.

You may think there is no more place for humans in this congested world, but there is lots of space in New Mexico!

As they say, "You see the backyards of America from the train."  But it is not always pretty.

I like taking the same train ride over and over because I know where trackside photos are located with which I want to experiment, such as I did with this Albuquerque warehouse.

Only on a train can you read, sleep, eat, photograph the scenery, and not have to keep your eyes on the road.

What is there to do in Albuquerque?

I had been to Albuquerque many times, by automobile while traveling on Route 66, starting in 1968, and by Amtrak Southwest Chief.   I wanted to revisit some sights like Santa Fe, Old Town Albuquerque, the Santa Fe Southern Railway and Taos Pueblo.

New destinations were also on my list like the winter home of the Sandhill Cranes, Photograph ;us of the 'Santa Fe Light,' and the Unser Racing Museum.  Therefore, I needed to hit the ground running once I stepped off the Southwest Chief in Albuquerque.

Renting a car in Albuquerque after arriving by Southwest Chief

You cannot get a rental car at the Amtrak Station in Albuquerque, but you can rent one from the Airport (Cab is $20 w/tip from the Station) and Hertz will refund you $15 for the cab ride.  (Check other rental agencies as well.)

Hyatt Tamaya Resort, Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico

We drove to the Hyatt Tamaya Resort, 1300 Tuyuna Trail  Santa Ana Pueblo, NM 87004  (505) 867-1234 and checked into our room.  Room rates for non-conference attendees is $179 to $429 a night.  We had lunch in the Corn Maiden Cafe at the Resort.  Their description of lunch:

Enticing lunch soups, salads and entrees, ranging from Harvest Tortilla Soup or Tamaya Chicken Caesar Salad to Zesty Mahi Mahi Tacos.

Mural above the Corn Maiden Cafe.

Tamaya Resort pool

Tamaya Resort courtyard

Rio Grande Lounge

The Hyatt Tamaya Resort is deep into the reservation, so some picturesque photos are possible of the area between the resort and Hwy. 550 of the Sandia Mountains to the east across the Rio Grande River.

Cottonwood trees along the Rio Grande River and
the Sandia Crest, 10,048 Ft.  Photo taken from the Hyatt Tamaya Resort at sunset.

Between the Resort and Hwy. 550, there is enough real estate for you to realize what the pre-resort scenery was like on the Reservation.

Tamaya Resort takes on a new dimension after dark.

Rio Grande Lounge

Nice fire and seating outside on cold evenings while waiting for the bus to the parking lot.

The bigger-than-life bronze statues of the Tamaya Indians are the centerpiece of the circular drive taken by arriving guests and all guests entering and exiting the resort.

Stairway to Heaven, Indian Style.

Santa Fe Southern Railway

Knowing I would be in the Santa Fe area, I had written the Santa Fe Railway about doing a report on their operation.  I did a report on this railroad in 2005.  There is a link to that report at the end of this report.

After checking in at the Hyatt Tamaya Resort, I drove on up I-25 to Santa Fe.  My goal was to see if the Santa Fe Southern office had gotten my communication and if there was a chance I could ride their train on one of the four days I would be in the area.  When I arrived at the Santa Fe Southern Office, I found new track and the Rail Runner pulled right into the Station.  I soon learned that the Santa Fe Southern Office had been taken over by the Visitors Bureau and was no longer available as a waiting room for their Christmas train.  Further, the Santa Fe Southern Office was in a building located at the south end of the yard.  The office staff informed me that the Santa Fe Southern was not running any trains and they hoped to resume in February.  It seems a drain plug had been mysteriously removed on the locomotive and the engine blew out on a run.  Before they could get the locomotive back to the yard, the train was further vandalized.  A locomotive in the yard looked newly painted.

Rail Runner awaiting departure at Santa Fe Station.

Santa Fe Southern locomotive and cars in Santa Fe

Rail Runner underway to Albuquerque.

Santa Fe Southern rolling stock

Locomotive No. 07

With less than an hour left before the shops in Santa Fe closed. I dashed into the La Fonda Hotel and asked at the Consignor for a downtown map showing the location of Photographer Gallerys.  As I took the map, he reminded me I had only 1/2 hour before they closed.

The sun began to set so I snapped some photos knowing that I would not be back to Santa Fe on this trip since the Santa Fe Southern was not running.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

The church on the square seemed to receive it's own sunbeams.

The sun hit west facing walls very dramatically.

It was cold and freezing and photo ops were down each shaded alley.

Look in museum courtyards for artwork.

Southwest architecture is dramatic.The

The Museum had a nice take on "How the West Was Won."

Brave artists stayed until 5 pm for a possible sale.

Even the La Fonda Hotel's west side captured the setting sun.

With the Santa Fe Railway not running during my visit, this meant a correction in my 4-day itinerary to the Greater Albuquerque area.  The second day, I decided to go to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, some 2 hours south of the Tamaya Resort on I-25.  I had learned that thousands of sandhill cranes and snow geese winter in the Refuge, and I had never seen a sandhill crane in person.  This would be a Wildlife Photography Highlight for me!

Even before I saw my first sandhill crane, I spotted a juvenile red tailed hawk, a bald eagle, and some deer.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Juvenile red-tailed hawk.

I spotted a bald eagle on a tree in the middle of a lake.  Note:  Always have your telephoto along for those long shots only possible with magnification.

Great Blue Heron

These deer were down a side road, so I watched them for a while.

Patience paid off - the group began to jump a water ditch and move through the red willows.

This one jumped the whole ditch in one leap.

This one started wading across, then decided to jump the rest of the way, leaving a splash behind.

Rounding a corner on the Farm Loop in the Reserve, I saw what I had come to see, but in much larger numbers that I'd imagined - Sandhill Cranes.

Bird Count at the Visitor's Center from a week earlier.

I could not believe the number of sandhill cranes in this one feeding field bordered by cottonwood trees.

Sparing is a common activity while feeding.

I was lucky enough to be under this fellow as he moved to another field.

Wingspan of an adult sandhill crane is 8 feet!

This is as close as I could get to one on the ground, he was drinking from a waterway and perhaps thought he was camouflaged and I couldn't see him.

At sunset, the cranes all move to a shallow lake for the night, as protection from predators.

Snow Geese were feeding in the same field, and spending the night at the other end of the pond the sandhill cranes were using...good neighbors.

Snow Geese and a lone cottonwood tree at lake's edge.

Sandra Seth, right, was very informative about how to shoot the sandhill cranes during their fly in.  She created and maintained the for the Friends of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge web site for several years,
and was volunteer of the year in 2010. 
She had an appreciation for the single cottonwood tree at the edge of the pond as well (below).  Her private website and the Friends website are linked at the end of this report.

After watching the fly in at sunset at Bosque del Apache NWR, I drove back to Albuquerque and the extra 20 or so miles beyond to the Hyatt Tamaya Resort.   I-25 in New Mexico is a non-stress highway to drive with very few vehicles. 

Day Three:  I had researched what I wanted to see in Albuquerque and the Unser Racing Museum was my first priority.  However, I also researched photography galleries in Albuquerque and found that eleven photographers were in a co-op gallery right in Old Town.  My adventure the next day would be to visit Old Town in the morning and the Unser Racing Museum in the afternoon.

Old Town Albuquerque

Being a winter weekday, there were very few visitors in town so parking was available right on the Plaza.  In fact, I was the first visitor of the day to the Albuquerque Photographers' Gallery.  The evening before, when I visited their website, I had decided the photographer whose work I wanted to see the most was Mellany Herrera.  Low and behold, when I arrived she was the hostess for the day.  I enjoyed sharing time talking about photography with her and especially discussing HDR photography.

Albuquerque Photographers' Gallery
303 Romero Street NW
(upstairs) in suite N208
Albuquerque NM 87104

Open daily from 10AM until 6PM
Closed on Tuesdays

Mellany Herrera and her photos in the Gallery.

San Felipe Church from the Gallery porch.

San Felipe Church

A tin-roofed shop on the Plaza

Indian vendors on the east side of Old Town Plaza.  The first vendor, Lisa Carrillo (505-23403910), said the whole month there had been few visitors.

La Placita Restaurant.  I had lunch here as Sue and I did in 1968 when we were moving to California from Indiana.  The tree is still there growing up through the glass roof.

Won't you join me for lunch?

I had a chicken enchilada ala carte with 'mild' sauce.  It still took me two glasses of water to get through the tasty lunch.

Nice seating area east of the Old Town Plaza.

With the afternoon left in Albuquerque, I headed for the Unser Racing Museum.  I remember watching the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on Memorial Day each year and cheering for Bobby, Al and Al Unser, Jr.  There is now a Unser Racing Museum presenting the history of the racing family. 

After my visit, where Wayne told me of another docent who is working on the Santa Fe Locomotive 2926 restoration.  Here is info. about that project which I will probably visit the next time in Albuquerque:  There is a group of us working on restoring Locomotive 2926 to running condition. The group is New Mexico Steam Locomotive and Railroad Historical Society. To date the tender has been restored and we are now working on the engine with the goal to have it on the road by 2013. The restoration site is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The group website is and the phone # is  246-2926.   Don MacCornack  

Unser Racing Museum

Thank you, Tom MacDuffie, Lead Docent at the Unser Racing Museum for the comments, in blue, under each of the following photos:

1776 Montano Road Northwest  Los Ranchos, NM 87107-3245  (505) 341-1776
Approach from 4th St. NW, it will be on the left.

This is a metal sculpture we call “Old Jerome”.  It is a replica of an early 1900’s mechanics car used at Indianapolis.  This is when the mechanic rode with the driver.

Center, rotating display.

This is the Johnny Lightning Sprint/Dirt car that Al Unser Sr. drove in 1970.  At that time you had to win points in both sprint car and speedway car racing to win the National Title.

This Legends car was sponsored by Al Unser Jr.  It was not raced by an Unser.

This is the ’94 “Pink Panther” that Al Jr. raced in the IROC (International Race of Champions), that year.

This car was owned by Al Unser Sr. and raced at Pikes Peak in 1961 and 1962.  After bearing the cost of this car – he decided that, in the future, he’d contract his driving skills to the owners of cars.

This is the #3 Rislone Special that Bobby Unser Sr. raced to his first Indy 500 victory in 1968.

There are only two of this class of Novi’s in existence.  This one, donated to the museum by the Granatelli Family, was the car driven by Bobby Unser Sr. for his rookie race year at Indianapolis in 1963.

This is the 2001 Super Pak G-Force car driven by Al Unser Jr. in 2001.  This car won the race at the Gateway Speedway, outside of St. Louis, during that season.

When Bobby and Al both raced, one used Firestone and the other Good Year tires.  Their parents, not wanting to show favoritism had the shirts split and reassembled as Fire Year and Good Stone...pretty creative.

Front window of the Entrance and Store.

Annex Photos

Jerry's Garage.

Front:  1923 Sterling truck restored by Al Unser Sr..  It weighs 6000 lbs. and is designed to carry an additional 6000 lbs. 

The 1930 Model A Delivery Van was  the first restoration by Al Unser Sr.  The 1930 Model A Phaeton, also restored by Al, was mfg. in Argentina – thus right-hand drive.  None of the vintage cars are  have a historical relationship to the family.

First:  The 1991 “Uno” car was driven by Arie Luyendyk at the Indianapolis 500 that year – and finished third.

Second:  The Kraco/STP car is a 1986 March/Cosworth – identical to the winner-circle (1987 Al Unser winning car) in the Unser I museum.  It is being made into a show car (engine removed) – but, was Michael Andretti’s car in 1986.  He had his first Indy Car win at Long Beach with that car – and it was also on the front row at Indy in 1986 – as Michael qualified it third.

Number 32 (Not number 92 above.)

The Kraco/STP car is a 1986 March/Cosworth – identical to the winner-circle (1987 Al Unser winning car) in the Unser I museum.  It is being made into a show car (engine removed) – but, was Michael Andretti’s car in 1986.  He had his first Indy Car win at Long Beach with that car – and it was also on the front row at Indy in 1986 – as Michael qualified it third.

Right of No. 32-not pictured:  The Kraco/STP car is a 1986 March/Cosworth – identical to the winner-circle (1987 Al Unser winning car) in the Unser I museum.  It is being made into a show car (engine removed) – but, was Michael Andretti’s car in 1986.  He had his first Indy Car win at Long Beach with that car – and it was also on the front row at Indy in 1986 – as Michael qualified it third.

Classical Gas Museum

Finally, with one day left in the Albuquerque area, I decided to revisit Taos Pueblo.  On the way, I knew there was an antique gas pump place with many other auto-related antiques on the way, but I didn't know its location.  Since it is just a two-lane road, you can't miss it.  I stopped in at what turned out to be the Classical Gas Museum, met the proprietor, Johnnie Meier, President of the Route 66 New Mexico Association and a contributing editor to the Route 66 and American Roads magazines.  It was an HDR photographer's paradise, and I spend about an hour taking photos around the property.  I have since learned that these type of antiques are called a "petroliana collection."

A tall gas station sign and an old Packard mark the Classical Gas Museum just south of Embudo, New Mexico.

The tall glass-topped pump is what I remember from the 40s when you hand-pumped gas up into the glass and gravity fed it into your car.

Looks a lot like the small Sinclair Station in Hayden, Indiana, where I was born and raised.

An old Studebaker truck resides next to the gas station.

Johnnie Meier, Classical Gas Museum Owner.

He even has a soda fountain building.

It looks like it wasn't long ago that it served shakes, sundaes, and cokes in those glasses.

All around the property were old things to photograph.

"I could just see myself in this old Packard."

"May they all 'Rust in Peace'"

I had enough photos of old gas pumps to last a lifetime, so I decided to head on up to Taos Pueblo.  Sue and I have visited Taos Pueblo two times before, but this time there would be the fewest visitors, probably because it was in the winter.  The lack of people plus my use of a tripod and HDR techniques, provided some colorful photos even though it was an overcast day.

Taos Pueblo

After parking and 'registering' which means paying $10 per person and $6 per camera, you can go inside the walls of the ancient pueblo.  The first thing you see, on the left, is the ancient cemetery with a bell tower in the middle.

* Descriptions from the brochure, "Welcome to Taos Pueblo - The Place of the Red Willow"

* The cemetery is where the original San Geronimo Church once stood.  Built around 1619 by Spanish priests with Indian Labor.  Later, in a rebellion US Troops destroyed the original church leaving only the bell tower standing.

"Pearly Gates" Indian Style.

* The village is surrounded by an adobe wall.  It stood 10 feet with 5 lookout places.  It was a boundary for keeping people safe and undisturbed during ceremonial times.

"Blue Doors of Taos Pueblo"

Entering the narrow street beside the church, into the walled pueblo, I noticed the reflection of a blue church window and a pumpkin in a window.  I liked the detail in the natural porch pillar.

* The San Geronimo Church, built in 1850, is one of the youngest buildings in the village.  It is an extraordinary example of the architectural achievements of the natives.  Inside are fine carved wooden beams or Vigas and choir loft.  Also, thick adobe walls support the high ceiling.  The summers are cool and the winters are warm inside the thick walls.  The central altar figure or Santo is the Virgin Mary which was brought by the early Spanish missionaries.

After returning home, I searched the Internet for "Ansel Adams Taos Pueblo" and was surprised to find these images, and others.  He took these black and white images in birth year!  Notice the changes that have been made in the church in the last 69 years.  For more images by Ansel Adams, check the links at the end of this report.

Ansel Adams: Church Doors Taos Pueblo

Church Taos Pueblo - 1942 National Archives, Department of Interior (Angle 2)

Church Taos Pueblo - 1942 National Archives, Department of Interior

Narrow street into Taos Pueblo

San Geronimo Church

San Geronimo Church

* "THE RIVER", The Red Willow Creek, (above) is so named after the willows that grow along the banks.  It is the life source and sole source of drinking water for the natives of Taos Pueblo.  Water is carried to the home by the pottery and/or water pails. [Which I observed

The Red Willow Creek divides the Pueblo in the  "North Side" and the "South Side".  There are three wooden foot-bridges for crossing from one side to the other.  Water in this creek comes from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  The Blue Lake and surrounding wilderness area are sacred sites, entrance is restricted to tribal members only. 

There is now a berm along both sides of the creek, built after flooding some years ago.

The most iconic photo from Taos Pueblo is the North House (Hlaauma)

* The North House and South House are believed to be well over 1,000 years old.  The buildings are actually many individual homes built side by side in layers with common walls and no connecting doorways.  The Pueblo looks much like it did when the conquistadors first arrived.  The exception is the introduction of doorways.  At one time, the only entryway into the homes was by ladder through an opening in the rooftops.  This served as a source of light then as it still does today.  The roof top entrances also served as a safe guard against intruders of the Pueblo.  If an enemy was approaching, the ladders were pulled from the ground levels to the rooftops.  The exteriors are plastered annually with adobe due to the exposure of the four seasons.  The Pueblo maintains a restriction of No Electricity and No Running Water within the sacred village.  The introduction of wood stoves was adopted in many of the homes for cooking purposes.  Some families continue to cook right in the fireplace.

(Below) *The drying rack has man purposes.  The Natives have always been accomplished farmers, gatherers, hunters and craftsmen.  Therefore, the drying racks are used to dry wild game meat for jerky.  The natives also dried their harvested corn, pumpkin, squash, and bean crops.  Wild berries and animal hides for clothing were also dried and cured on these racks.

South House (Hlaukkwima) is less of a postcard photo than North House, but for me it has more details
for photographs.

South House

(Right) Horno is a Spanish word for the outdoor adobe oven that is used mostly to bake bread and pastries by the women of the Pueblo.  A cedar fire is built to heat the oven, the ash is removed, and the loaves/pastries are placed inside to bake.  The horno is also perfect for baking large portions of wild game and vegetables.


Wood stoves puffin' out on this breezy wintry day.

A Businessmens' Meeting.


Thus ended my "Four-Day Destination Albuquerque" vacation.    I intend to return some day to ride the restored Santa Fe Railway and to see the restoration of the Santa Fe Locomotive No. 2926.

CLICK HERE to see a slide show of all photos in this report.


My Santa Fe Southern 2005 Report | Friends of the Bosque del Apache NWR | Sandy Seth's Photos |

| Albuquerque Photographers' Gallery | Mellany Herrera's Photos
Unser Racing Museum |

Ansel Adams Photographs in the National Archives | Restoration of Santa Fe Locomotive No. 2926

Top of This Report | My Other Rail Destination Reports | | Silver Rails Country